I’ve had a beaten-up copy of The Shattered Court lying around my apartment for some time now, and I finally decided it was time to give it a read. The book is the opener to a series, and introduces a Britain-based country with its own unique magical system. However, my interest in the book quickly turned to frustration and disappointment as I learned more about how the magic worked. While the series attempted to say some challenging things about gender and magic, it fell down harder and harder every time it tried.
After several decades of hemming and hawing in the face of the evidence that movies about female heroes and/or starring more than one woman can be financially successful, I suspect that Wonder Woman finally was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Before Wondy, we had the moderately successful Ghostbusters: Answer the Call; coming next year, we will be #blessed by Ocean’s Eight. However, the thing about the latter two films, both reboots of previously all-male franchises, is that they are movies where the gender of the protagonists is incidental. That’s why it’s possible to reboot them with women; there’s no reason a lady can’t bust a ghost or rob a casino as effectively as a dude.
But of course Hollywood can never get it quite right, and now The Powers That Be have predictably got ahead of themselves by confusing incidental and intentional gendering in lady-led reboots.
In the balmy days of our summer vacation I figured it would be as good a time as any to clear out my mobage (mobile game) catalog on my emulator. Yet, as is the result of most of my cleaning ventures, I made space only to fill it up once again. Whoops!
Among my newest set of free to play mobile adventures is Tales of the Rays, a Namco Bandai exploration into how to adapt a console Tales game into a more portable format. Though I started only recently, Rays’s troubling trends only seem to get worse and worse the further I get. Not in terms of the gameplay (which is pretty fun, honestly), but in the development of the two protagonists, especially in concerns to the lady on the squad, Mileena.
Now that Moana has been released and Lindsey Ellis, formally known as the Nostalgia Chick, did a video essay comparing it to Pocahontas and talking about cultural appropriation, I’ve been thinking a lot more about Disney’s 1995 Pocahontas movie. I absolutely don’t want to defend Pocahontas because, well… it’s bad. It’s really bad and racist, but this movie did have a lot of positive effects on me and my understanding of the genocide white people waged on Native Americans. And even nowadays, over twenty years later, it once again indirectly managed to help me come to terms with a personal trauma. Lindsey Ellis’s video does a really good job deconstructing everything that’s wrong with this movie and I wholeheartedly recommend everyone watch it, because Pocahontas is on the whole a really awful movie. Despite my love for it and the positive influence it had on my life, those things do not erase the negatives.
Trigger warning for sexual abuse up ahead.
I wasn’t sure what to expect going into Spider-Man: Homecoming. I did really enjoy Tom Holland’s outing as Spidey in Captain America: Civil War, but I was kind of out of the loop for the pre-movie publicity (I barely even remember the trailers) and I felt going in more like I was seeing it out of MCU obligation than genuine hype. Plus, I still had some lingering resentment from the whole “pushing back the entire MCU production schedule to slot another white dude in” thing.
Coming out of Spider-Man: Homecoming, however, I had a big ol’ grin on my face. This movie was fantastically well-crafted and cast, and was loads of fun while also telling a heartfelt and complex story at its core.
Major plot spoilers after the cut! Please don’t read if you are planning to see it; it’s really worth going in unspoiled!
As I recently read S. Jae-Jones’s YA novel Wintersong, I noticed something troubling. The book seemed designed to appeal to me: it was a fantasy romance with strong (really strong) inspiration from both the movie Labyrinth and my favorite poem, Christina Rosetti’s Goblin Market. However, something about Liesl, the main character, bugged me, and it took me a while to figure it out. Not because it wasn’t obvious, but because I thought that, in this, the Year of Our Lord 2017, we had done away with the “not like other girls” trope.
It’s a tale as old as time: a girl who’s just ~not like~ the other girls around her, against all odds, wins the day. These stories are appealing to us because these girls are framed as the outcasts; we can relate to their being bookish or plain or unpopular. But a problem that uniquely affects the female characters who fit these roles is that they often succeed or achieve victory at the expense of other women and girls, or by denigrating traditional femininity (or both). Liesl is an on-the-nose example of this trope: she is terribly jealous of her sister’s physical beauty, a trait Liesl lacks and constantly laments. Liesl is a genius composer, but her skills are downplayed or overlooked because of her gender. Meanwhile, it feels like her gorgeous sister is set up to be resented, as she at least can win men’s attention with her looks.
However, when offered a beautiful fae gown by the servants of the Goblin King, Liesl instead chooses a plain dress, and this is played like Indiana Jones correctly picking the right Holy Grail. But instead of just rejecting the wealth and majesty of the other dresses, it reads as though Liesl is casting a value judgment on the majority of the other women in the book, who did choose to wear frills and finery.
This is just the latest example of this issue, rather than the only one. Pop culture has a long and varied history of celebrating these not-like-other-girls, from formative Disney flicks all the way up to watch-at-your-own-risk premium television like Game of Thrones. These portrayals enforce a terrible message: that there’s only one right way to be a girl, and that it’s totally acceptable to tear down other girls who don’t meet those standards. Continue reading
It’s almost the Fourth of July, and for those of us here in the United States, we’ll soon be celebrating our nation’s founding. For me, that often meant watching 1776 with my parents, and I have to say that I adored this musical. The film version of the musical 1776 came out in 1972, and the musical itself came out in 1969. It follows John Adams as he tries to get a difficult, cantankerous, and often divided Congress to agree on American independence.
However, if you are a Hamilton fan, this musical might be a disappointment for you. This movie is very white and almost entirely male, with the exception of two female cast members, only one of whom plays a significant role. Regretfully, while there are some great moments in this musical, as far as representation goes, it definitely falls short.
The four issue run of Ladycastle, a limited series from Boom Comics, recently came to an end. The premise of the series was intriguing: after almost all the men of a castle in a fantasy land are killed while out on crusade, the women are left to seize power and agency for themselves for the first time. I thought the idea sounded interesting, and, as always, am enthusiastic about supporting comics stories about women by women, so I eagerly dove in.
The series tackles a number of gendered issues over the course of the story, from the traditional devaluation of femininity to accusations of misandry to challenging socialized behaviors. Ultimately, though, the story bit off more issues than four issues could chew. While it tried to say and do a lot of things, the matriarchy it attempted to sell me never really swept me off my feet.
This weekend, I rushed to the theater to see Wonder Woman. I was filled with both hope and fear. I knew that if Wonder Woman did poorly that we might never see a female led superhero movie again, and I knew that so far DC Comics’s movies have left a lot to be desired, but I was hearing good things about the film so I walked in hoping for the best. And praise Hera, I have never been more pleased or satisfied with a superhero film.
Spoilers for the Wonder Woman movie below.
Recently I have been obsessed with Gravity Falls, and that led me to watching a very strange but intriguing movie based on a now-famous science fiction novel called Flatland. When Gravity Falls creator Alex Hirsch went on Reddit answering questions as Bill Cipher, one commenter asked what Bill’s home dimension was like. Hirsch as Bill (and in entirely in capslock) responded, “EDWIN ABBOTT ABBOTT HAD A GOOD IDEA.” I looked up Edwin Abbott Abbott and discovered he is the author of Flatland, a satirical science fiction book about a flat world inhabited by geometric shapes. Initially, I worried that Abbott would use math and science jargon and that much of the story would be lost on me because of it. I love math and science, and I am fascinated by it, but I don’t have much of a head for it.
However, one day I discovered the 2007 film Flatland: The Film, and decided to watch a little of it, thinking it would be interesting but that it wouldn’t hold my attention long. I was wrong. I was so fascinated with the story that I immediately immersed myself in learning more about the world of Flatland as well as the somewhat feminist views of the story.
Trigger warning for mention of suicide below.